Checking in on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Not much attention is ever really given to the AHL affiliates, and understandably so as many hockey fans are all in on their NHL teams. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms finished 8th in the Atlantic Division last year as they followed in the footsteps of the Philadelphia Flyers. Several key players were taken from the Phantoms as the Flyers held a laundry list of injuries, however this year there are a lot of exciting prospects playing for a chance to crack the NHL roster sooner rather than later.
The Phantoms’ season is a little younger than the Flyers’ in that they have played 4 games so far and hold a record of 2-1-1-0, which is currently good for 6th place in the Atlantic Division behind the Charlotte Checkers (4-0-0-0), Bridgeport Islanders (4-1-0-0), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (3-1-0-0), Providence Bruins (3-1-1-0), and the Hershey Bears (2-1-1-0).
Elliot Desnoyers leads the way with 3 goals and 4 points in 4 games, followed by Ronnie Attard who has 2 goals and 4 points, Garrett Wilson with 3 assists and 4 points, Zack MacEwen with 1 goal and 3 points in only 2 games, and then Max Willman, Tyson Foerster, and Cam York all with 3 points in 4 games.
In goal, the veteran Troy Grosenick has split the games with the preseason surprise, Samuel Ersson. Grosenick is 2-0-0 with a 2.89 GAA and a .928 SV%, while Ersson is 0-1-1 with a 3.04 GAA and an .898 SV%. Grosenick had a rather disappointing preseason and training camp for the Flyers as he truly floundered his opportunity of potentially winning the backup spot from Felix Sandstrom – so much so that he was sent down before Ersson.
The Phantoms currently hold several top prospects who the Flyers are hoping can hone and develop their skills to one day make it to the big leagues and as soon as possible. Desnoyers, Attard, Foerster, York, Olle Lycksell, Linus Hogberg, Isaac Ratcliffe, Adam Ginning, Wyatte Wylie, and Zayde Wisdom represent the future – at the very least for the Phantoms as well.
Cam York was surprisingly demoted to the AHL ahead of the finalization of the NHL rosters. Everyone had him penciled in as the Flyers’ bottom-pair left defenseman, most likely skating with Justin Braun to start the season, however he had a very underwhelming preseason and training camp to the standards of the Flyers and York himself. He took it like a champ, he understood that he needed to be better, and he got a taste of what John Tortorella and Chuck Fletcher expect out of him. The idea isn’t to stay buried for too long, but long enough to take advantage of more meaningful minutes and lesser skill in the AHL versus the NHL.
Desnoyers has truly exploded onto the scene in the last few years and alongside his Team Canada teammate at the World Junior Championships in Tyson Foerster, they represent the better young forward prospects – without forgetting about the injured Bobby Brink. All three are not far away from cracking the NHL lineup and in the case of Brink, who did exceptionally well in his short stint with the team last year, he is expected to return from his torn labrum in his left hip sometime in December-January.